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College basketball: Bluejays fall to Riverland

Aaron Hagen Daily Globe WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West men's basketball team had a chance. After trailing most of the second half, the Bluejays were within one possession in the final 20 seconds of Wednesday night's college basketball game aga...

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JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West Bluejay Vencel Tigue (30) shoots for two against the Riverland Blue Devils Wednesday night in Worthington.

Aaron Hagen
Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - The Minnesota West men’s basketball team had a chance.
After trailing most of the second half, the Bluejays were within one possession in the final 20 seconds of Wednesday night’s college basketball game against Riverland.
But the visiting Blue Devils made a pair of free throws down the stretch to pull away for the 78-73 victory.
“We didn’t have the intensity,” MW guard Marcus Potter said. “They came out trapping and taking it right in our face. We couldn’t defend and we couldn’t contain. We just needed to knock down shots, that’s the main thing.”
Potter and Derek Buysse combined to score 48 points for the Bluejays (13-13, 8-5). Potter finished with 23 points and three assists.
“I missed a lot of shots, but I think I was pretty aggressive,” Potter said. “I can always make a lot more shots, that’s for sure. I need to concentrate on my threes a little bit.”
Buysse finished with a game-high 25 points to go with six rebounds and three assists.
“He had a nice game,” Potter said. “He can take over at any time. We just need to carry that into playoffs.”
Coming into the game, the Bluejays had already secured their place in next week’s region tournament. However, seeding has yet to be decided.
“We just weren’t quite tough enough today,” Minnesota West head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. “(Riverland) is playing for their playoff lives and they played like it tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Gary Cook Jr. led the Blue Devils with 19 points. Robert Parker finished with 14, while Nate Emge had 14 and Dearionte Hudson had 12 as Riverland beat the Bluejays with a balanced attack.
“There was miscommunication - no one was talking,” Potter said. “We just need to get down in the stance. No one wanted it, no one had their hands up. We just seemed tired out there.”
Minnesota West led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Riverland answered with an 11-1 run to tie the score late. Sam Nhial made a basket in the final minutes to give MW a 38-37 lead at the break.
Out of halftime, Riverland slowly increased its lead. At two different times, the Blue Devils led by 10 points in the second half, and with just under three minutes remaining in the game, had a nine point advantage.
“We just didn’t have the intensity, we didn’t have the fire and we didn’t want enough and they came out on our home court and pushed us around,” Potter said. “We just needed to finish the game. We couldn’t do it.”
Dominic Nealy hit a triple for the Bluejays to cut the deficit to six and give the Bluejays a little momentum.
A minute later, Buysse converted a three-point play and followed with a layup in the final 20 seconds, cutting the deficit to three points.
“They missed some free throws and gave us a chance,” Heckenlaible said. “It shouldn’t have come down to that. We had lots of opportunities before that. It wasn’t the last two minutes, we should have taken care of business a lot earlier in the half.”
But that was as close as it would get as Riverland (16-10, 8-5) earned the victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance to hang around, but it’s a game where if we make a few shots here and there, it’s would be a different outcome,” Heckenlaible said. “But we weren’t tough enough on the offensive end to grind out possessions, they did a good job in their zone. Then defensively we had some stops, we made them miss the shot, but they got the rebound and put it back.”
MW is at home on Saturday against Fergus Falls. A win would mean the Bluejays would be the third seed in the upcoming region tournament.
“It starts tomorrow in practice,” Potter said. “We have to refocus and get ready for Saturday.”
Riverland 37 78
Bluejays 35 73
RIVERLAND (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) – Hudson 0-5-2-12, Myers 0-4-1-9, Emge 4-0-2-14, Cook 2-5-3-19, Parker 1-5-2-15, Landers 1-0-0-3, Stuart 0-2-0-4, Michel 0-1-0-2. Totals 8-22-10-78.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) – Potter 1-6-8-23, Nhial 0-1-0-2, Prouty 1-0-0-3, Nealy 1-0-2-5, Buysse 2-8-3-25, Hopkins 0-1-0-2, Tigue 1-0-1-4, Pennington 0-2-2-6, Koerselman 0-0-3-3. Totals 6-18-19-73.

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JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West’s Derek Buysse (21) and Riverland’s Nate Emge (5) battle for the rebound off Minnesota West’s basket Wednesday night.

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